PHOTO by Donny Gillett
Personally I think this anteater, the northern tamandua, is the oddest looking animal in the Costa Rican rainforest. They are certainly easy to identify, being fairly large (up to around 7kg), yellowy brown with a big black jerkin-style marking on their backs, and a long tubular snout. They are semi-arboreal (hence their strong, prehensile tails) and they have an ungainly, rolling walk when on the ground because of their feet have long claws designed to dig into trunks and branches. Like scarlet macaws, what looks like striking colouring turns out to be top camouflage in trees, and so anteaters are generally most easily spotted on the ground, snuffling the soft, rotting wood of fallen trees in search of their primary food source – ants – which they lick up with their long tongues.
Although they are fairly widespread, they rest in hollows for much of the day and so sightings, even at ground level, are fairly unusual. Usually, when you do see them, it’s at dawn or dusk, and because they are distracted – either by unearthing ants, or by another tamandua. When defending themselves against rivals, tamanduas are quite spectacular, standing up on their back legs – usually with a branch, mud bank or boulder for support, and swiping with their long,curved claws.
Solitary tamandua have been frequently spotted along the forest edge and throughout the 170-acre reserve at Casa Corcovado. Good places to keep an eye out for them include the forest area behind the bungalows, the grassy areas above the trail to the long beach, and at the edge of the beach between the boat area, and the track to San Pedrillo ranger station.
Top facts (gleaned from Wikipedia)
The anteater’s mouth only opens to about the width of a pencil
They have no teeth
They have poor vision
The name Tamandua is Tupi for anteater
Tamanduas are sometimes used by Amazonian Indians to rid their homes of ants and termites.